(Note to Sage Words: I am not responsible for any reaction you imagine you might have to this blog. Try it, your taste buds might have finally changed.)
Our friends Connie and Terry, who roam the country during the Fall and Winter months in the Big Red Bus, have just gotten back home in Indiana, (hmmm that sounds familiar). Connie updated her blog yesterday and ignited my epicurean memories. She talked about discovering a treasure trove of wild mushrooms while cleaning up their yard from winter storms. Then she wrote one of the all time best lines . (It has already been added to my quotes file.)
Connie said," Nothing says welcome home like a 'fungus sandwich'!!"
During my freshman year in high school, we moved from Pennsylvania to Adams, MA. My two sweetest friends were Manya and Marybeth, who had grown up there in large Polish families. MB actually lived on a farm in Cheshire, with a barn, and chickens, and everything.
This was so groovy to a girl who had spent her formative years in one of the country's first ticky- tacky housing developments. (we didn't know it was ticky tacky until Pete Seeger told us so a couple of years later but I digress.) Marybeth designed and made most of her own clothing and I was in awe of her talents. In fact, I've occasionally taught a class on decorating Christmas stockings based on one she made for me once.
Together we would hike up Mt. Greylock 3 or 4 times a year. We'd sometimes hop on our old fat tire, one speed bikes and take off on 20 mile day trips, carrying out lunches in the baskets attached to the handlebars. We never got into trouble. We never took any risks, at least I didn't think so until the day MB suggested we should go mushrooming.
Remember the 60s?
Remember the words PSYCHEDELIC and
Remember LSD and
Home Made BROWNIES?
Well, all of those things went through my head when she suggested that. To my astonishment Manya, who might have been elected the president of the Goody Two Shoes Club at any time, (and I say this in the most complimentary way) thought it was a great idea.
They both argued with me until I agreed to help collect mushrooms. I was so frightened by the entire operation that I kept rubbing my hands on my dungarees, terrified that I'd have a bad trip just from touching them. What did I know? Until that day I thought mushrooms grew in cans and went into spaghetti sauce! The most exotic we ever got was having them on a pizza.
Now I was collecting them in my kerchief.
Apparently, we picked a bumper crop that day because when we returned to MB's farm, her mother was very pleased. She calmed my fears and reassured me the fungus was safe, then she cleaned some and made us mushroom sandwiches. That's when I knew they were enchanted. They were delicious and I told her so.
I said there were all kinds of mushrooms on the hill, surrounding the golf course, near my house and I was going to go pick them for my mom for supper. All three of them stared at me aghast but before they could say anything, her Dad, ever the grade school principle, called "NO!" from the other room. He then came in and proceeded to teach me in about 10 minutes every bad thing ever connected with mushrooms.
I'm not sure he trusted me to remember it all, however, so he offered to drive Manya and me home. When we got to my house he surprised me by coming in with me and talking to my mother. We brought a big paper bag full of my share of the mushrooms we'd gathered and then Mr. G. arranged with my folks to come over on Saturday and take Mom and me to the place I'd told him about up the hill. On that day the girls joined us. Dad had no desire to pick mushrooms. He'll eat them if he doesn't know about them. (I think that's where Sage Words gets his aversion to them).
We had a great lesson and found some wonderful specimens. He showed Mom how to cook them and we were in heaven. Unfortunately, I never lost my fear of picking something poisonous and when we eventually went our separate ways to college, marriage and families, I never trusted myself again. So I've only enjoyed the wonderful flavors thanks to the largess of others.
Mr. G. later became my first principal when I began teaching. He even stopped to pick me up for work or brought me home on many occasions. I learned so many life lessons from him as I grew up. And for many years, long after Marybeth and I had lost touch, I heard from himat Christmas and when email began to become popular. He was a sweet man who never let me pick the wrong mushroom.
Buttercup, introduced me to Roasted Portabello Burgers back in California and they are marvelous. Still, Connie made me remember the lesson I learned back in the woods in Adams and Cheshire many years ago.
I found a recipe on line from a man, also in Indiana, for Mushroom Sandwiches. I'm not sure if it's the same one Connie uses but I'll share it here because it does use the wonderful morels we found on the hill near the golf course with my friends. Maybe if Connie has another one she'll post it too.
1 lb Cleaned whole morels (Morchella esculenta)
1/2 ts Salt
1/8 ts Pepper
2 c Flour
1/8 lb Butter (not margarine)
1/4 c Milk
Beat eggs, salt, pepper, and milk together. Place flour in a large flat bowl. Wash morels and pat dry. Large mushrooms may be cut lengthwise. Melt butter in a skillet and keep at low heat. Dip morels into egg, salt, pepper, and milk mixture. When covered, roll mushrooms in the flour to coat. Place mushrooms in skillet and saute until the morels are golden brown.
Remove when cooked and drain on paper towels, or if you like the butter, place mushrooms on plain white bread and make a sandwich.
NOTE: This is the first way I ever ate morels, over 40 years ago, and is still one of my favorites. Morels lend themselves well for this treatment. Of course, I've never eaten a bad morel. Living for years in Northeast Central Indiana, it is interesting to note that the name morel is unknown by many. It is called the sponge mush-a-roon. (John in Indiana)
Quote of the day: " Nothing says welcome home like a 'fungus sandwich'!!"
~ Connie Simpson
See ya down the road,